Mauritania

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| Press release

Africa's hunger crisis intensifies: IFRC warns against crisis fatigue

Geneva/Nairobi, 07 December 2023: In response to the growing hunger crisis across sub-Saharan Africa, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is amplifying its call to action amidst growing concerns of crisis fatigue. To this end, the IFRC has revised its funding appeal to 318 million Swiss Francs, now aiming to reach 18 countries. More than a year has passed since the initial launch of the Africa hunger crisis appeal, yet the needs continue to outpace support received. Originally set at 215 million Swiss Francs for 16 countries, only 59 million Swiss Francs has been raised. This humanitarian crisis, intensified by recurring droughts, El Niño-induced floods, conflicts and economic downturns, demands an immediate response to prevent widespread suffering, loss of lives and livelihoods. Around 157 million people in 35 countries across sub-Saharan Africa face acute food insecurity. Despite early warnings from African Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, more funding and resources are needed. The Horn of Africa has been particularly hard-hit, enduring its longest dry spell on record with five consecutive dry seasons. In contrast, regions like eastern Kenya, parts of South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania experienced heavier than usual rains during the October-December season, leading to flooding that further aggravated the situation for those already facing acute food insecurity. This mix of extreme weather conditions, along with ongoing conflicts, has led to varied harvest outcomes across the continent. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are witnessing heart-wrenching conditions where many, including women and children, survive on less than one meal a day. Mohamed Omer Mukhier, Regional Director for Africa, emphasized the continued urgency: “In the past year, the dire need for resources in tackling the current hunger crisis has been evident with millions of people deprived of water, food and health services. While this crisis has intensified, it has been largely overshadowed by more visible crises over the past year. Considering its magnitude across the continent, we urgently call for expanded support to pursue our collective lifesaving and life-sustaining mobilization.” These countries are currently at the heart of the hunger crisis: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. African Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have been instrumental in providing life-saving assistance to millions affected by this crisis. So far, they have reached 1.53 million people. Most of the aid provided has been water and sanitation services, reaching over 1.2 million people. Additionally, over 725,000 people received cash assistance and over 450,000 received health and nutrition support. This underscores the IFRC's commitment to transitioning from immediate relief to sustainable, long-term resilience strategies in the region. The revised appeal will focus on improving agricultural practices, fostering peace and stability and creating economic opportunities. More information: For more details, visit the Africa Hunger Crisis appeal page. For audio-visual material, visit the IFRC newsroom. To request an interview, contact: [email protected] In Nairobi: Anne Macharia: +254 720 787 764 In Geneva: Tommaso Della Longa: +41 79 708 43 67 Mrinalini Santhanam: +41 76 381 50 06

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Mauritania: Cash for families affected by food insecurity offers ’choice and dignity’

By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC It’s a hot September morning and the courtyard of the village school, usually quiet during the school holidays, is teeming with people. Zeinab Bechir, a 54-year-old mother of six, and dozens of other men and women, take shelter under a tent to protect themselves from the scorching sun. They wait impatiently to be called by Mauritanian Red Crescent teams who are organising a cash distribution operation to help families affected by chronic food insecurity. For Zeinab and most of the villagers, life is a constant struggle. Since the failure of the harvests – due to poor rainfall then flooding – feeding one’s family has become a daily battle. As a widow with many children in her care, the ordeal for Zeinab is even more difficult. “Life is so hard,” says Zeinab. “There was nothing to prepare today.” Amid this lean season, the most challenging period of the year when food stocks are low and prices high, the assistance she has received from the Mauritanian Red Crescent has been a lifeline. The cash aid has enabled her to buy basic foodstuffs and ensures that her family does not go to bed hungry. “With this money, I’ll be able to buy food for at least a month,” she says. “This help from the Red Crescent has come at the right time.” Dignity and choice A thousand households in Barkeol district have received cash to help them cope with the tribulations of the lean season. “Rather than providing food rations, we chose to give cash to households,” explains Mohamed Abdallahi, food security and livelihoods m,anager at the Mauritanian Red Crescent. “This allows them to buy food that better meets their needs with dignity and choice." Although the cash distribution operation – supported by the IFRC – has brought a ray of hope amidst the gloom in Barkeol, many gaps remain. Of the 2,700 households targeted for cash in Barkeol, Guerrou and Moudjeria by the MRC and IFRC, only around 1,000 have so far received assistance. More than half a million people in Mauritania, or 11 per cent of the population, are facing food insecurity during the lean season. The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for two million Swiss francs to help the Mauritanian Red Crescent assist 81,900 people. The funds raised should be used to provide cash and nutritional support to the most vulnerable people, while putting in place long-term solutions to build community resilience. "The lack of funding is limiting our ability to reach thousands of families in need,” says Alex Claudon de Vernisy, head of the IFRC Cluster Delegation in Dakar: Senegal. “For example, our appeal is currently 20 per cent funded, thanks to a contribution from the Norwegian government. But in the face of persistent food insecurity, we must remain mobilized and increase the partnership for this emergency appeal.”

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Africa hunger crisis: Mothers unite to tackle malnutrition in Mauritania

In a small village in Barkeol, Mauritania, the sun has reached its midday peak, forcing villagers to seek shelter from its harsh rays in the shade. Sat under a tent made of colourful printed fabric, a group of twenty women are chatting and smiling as they enjoy a lively discussion and debate. Rakia Salem, a volunteer from the Mauritanian Red Crescent, has just completed a training session with them on how to recognise signs of malnutrition in their children using a special bracelet. Rakia joined the Mauritanian Red Crescent in 2020 as a facilitator for this local ‘mothers' club’, which was set up that same year. "My role is to train mothers to screen children for malnutrition using the MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) bracelet, which is a simple, easy-to-use tool that can help prevent a deterioration in their state of health," explains Rakia. To demonstrate this to the group, she welcomes brave little Mohamed, a 3-year-old boy who was diagnosed with malnutrition a few weeks ago and who is now on the road to recovery thanks to early treatment. Mother knows best In Mauritania, many children are at risk of malnutrition due to recurrent food and nutrition insecurity, which is also affecting many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In response, the Mauritanian Red Crescent has been exploring different ways of diagnosing children more quickly and simply—with mothers’ clubs proving to be particularly successful. “Being around their children every day, mothers are best placed to detect the first signs of malnutrition. That’s why we put them at the centre of our screening strategies,” explains Mohamed Abdallahi, Food Security and Livelihoods Manager at the Mauritanian Red Crescent. There are now ten mothers' clubs in Barkeol, all providing women with a friendly forum to discuss maternal and child health, hygiene, sanitation, and good food and nutrition practices. Crucially, the women who attend the mothers’ clubs have learnt how to detect signs of malnutrition early before it gets too advanced. Early detection considerably reduces cases becoming severe and prevents the need for hospitalization, which in turn relieves pressure on the limited available health services in the region. “The earlier malnutrition is detected, the shorter and more effective the treatment. There are also fewer medical complications and a lower the risk of mortality," adds Mohamed. Supporting women’s livelihoods The mothers' clubs are also a great forum for building food resilience within communities in other ways. As most families don’t have the resources to meet minimum daily food needs for their children, the Mauritanian Red Crescent is also training mothers’ club members in how to set up their own money-making activities. Thanks to a small grant from the Mauritanian Red Crescent, the mothers' club in Barkeol has opened up a general store through which they sell food at a lower cost to villagers. Other local women have received interest-free loans through the club, enabling them to set up small businesses selling couscous, processing cereals, making clothes, or producing soup. Some have chosen to invest their money in market gardening to boost their yields. “We used to have a lot of difficulties, but thanks to the support of the Mauritanian Red Crescent, we are now able to improve our families' food security and diversify our children's diets,” explains Khadidiatou Mohamed Abdallahi, President of the mothers' club. -- To support people affected by food insecurity across Sub-Saharan Africa, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal in October 2022 to help Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 15 countries provide urgent and long-term assistance. To date, the IFRC network has reached: 600,000 people with cash and voucher assistance 425,000 people with health and nutrition support, including child supplementary feeding 232,000 people with livelihoods support – such as training in income-generating activities and livestock management 1.2 million people with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance In Mauritania, the appeal is supporting mothers’ clubs, like the one in Barkeol, and cash assistance to thousands of households. To donate to our appeal and help us reach even more people, please click here.

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Mauritania: Thousands of food-insecure families need urgent assistance as Sahel battles food crisis

It's hot and dryin N'Beika, a commune in Moudjeria, central Mauritania, with temperatures already rising above 40°C by late morning. It’s hard to believe that nine months ago, 90% of the commune was submerged by heavy rainfall and flooding. Mohamed Lemine Ould Mohamed Moctar, a 65-year-old farmer and father of seven, looks out over his piece of land, his face distant, hoping for a good rainy season, this time. "I didn't harvest anything last year. My whole sorghum field was ravaged by the floods. At least the year before, I was able to harvest a few small bags, despite the lack of rain", says Mohamed. Here in Moudjeria, asin Guerrou and Barkeol, the two other departments most affected by food insecurity in Mauritania this year, most families depend on traditional farming and livestock rearing to get by—a situation that makes them highly dependent on rainfall. For years, a lack of water had been the main obstacle to flourishing agriculture in this community nestled on a plateau some 100 metres above sea level. But last year's rains were much heavier than expected, causing flooding that wiped out people’s crops. This flooding has put severe strain on people’s livelihoods and is plunging many families in Mauritania into food insecurity. According to theMarch 2023 Mauritania Harmonized Framework, close to 500,000 people are expected to be acutely food insecure in the current lean season between June and August 2023. “Every day is battle for us to survive. Cereal, meat, and basic food stuff to feed my family are almost unaffordable since I lost my only hope for income in this past flood,” adds Mohamed. Sadly, communities in Mauritania are not the only ones facing this problem. The Sahel Region in Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing one of the worst food insecurity crises in decades, affecting millions of people. “It’s alarming to witness the deterioration in food security in the Sahel. Pre-existing conditions such as drought and floods, climatic shocks, regional and international conflicts and rising food and fuel prices are spiking hunger and malnutrition rates. Each time, it is the most vulnerable who suffer the consequences of a complex context, exacerbated by growing inequalities,” says Alexandre Claudon de Vernisy, head of the IFRC Cluster delegation for Cape Verde, Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. In response to this emergency, the IFRC launched an appeal for 215 million Swiss francs in October 2022 to support 7.6 million of the most food insecure people across 14 priority countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mauritania is the latest country to join the regional appeal in May 2023, bringing the total number of countries to 15. The Mauritanian Red Crescent (MRC) needs 2 million Swiss francs from this appeal to help more than 80,000 people like Mohamed affected by food insecurity in the communes of Barkeol, Guerrou and Moudjeria. In the short term, this funding will be used to provide more than 2,700 families with cash assistance to help them get back on their feet. It will also enable MRC volunteers to provide community health services and malnutrition screenings to more than 2,500 families to meet their immediate health needs. In the longer-term, the funding aims to boost the resilience of communities in Mauritania so they are better prepared for future climate shocks. The MRC will: Set up three ‘Farmer Field Schools’ to teach climate-smart farming techniques—such assoil moisture conservation, use of appropriate seeds, and crop association—to hundreds of farmers, so they can have more successful and reliable yields. Help 30 villages to set up village food security stocks by buying cereals after the harvest period so that the price is cheaper during the next lean season. Support mother’s clubs in the region that help mothers to recognize and fight signs of malnutrition in their children. "It’s a long and difficult lean season ahead of us. Without the Red Crescent’s help, there would be very littlehope for us," says Mohamed. -- For more information about this crisis and to donate to the IFRC’s emergency appeal,please visit our Africa: Hunger crisis page.

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| Emergency

Africa: Hunger crisis

Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing one of the most alarming food crises in decades—immense in both its severity and geographic scope.Roughly 146 million people are suffering from acute food insecurity and require urgent humanitarian assistance. The crisis is driven by a range of local and global factors, including insecurity and armed conflict, extreme weather events, climate variability and negative macroeconomic impacts. Through this regional Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting many Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Africa to protect the lives, livelihoods and prospects of millions of people.

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